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Pharma giants offer up drug candidates for $20M NIH collaboration

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NIH director Francis S. Collins has made no secret of just how eager he is for the new translational medicine initiative now underway to rev up work on therapies bound for clinical review. Today he's taking a big step down that road, outlining a new partnership between the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and Eli Lilly ($LLY), Pfizer ($PFE) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) that will provide investigators access to failed drugs to see if they can be repurposed for new uses. And the government has a $20 million cache of cash to fund the work.

The idea is simple: The drug companies will offer up their data and investigators will have a chance to explore new uses, with a set of deal templates in place to help speed the process on 20 programs. In drug research, it's not at all unusual to see a drug intended for one disease work in another. Reata, for example, found that out with their lead therapy, now partnered with Abbott Laboratories ($ABT). And if shelved therapies can be repurposed, researchers will already have safety data in hand to accelerate development efforts.

"Clearly, we need to speed the pace at which we are turning discoveries into better health outcomes," said NIH Director Collins. "NIH looks forward to working with our partners in industry and academia to tackle an urgent need that is beyond the scope of any one organization or sector." 

The big three pharma companies at the heart of this deal are likely to be joined by other big players. The NIH says others may join after the pilot gets started. And the approach could help revive work on neuroscience drugs, where some of the industry's biggest players have either stepped back or dropped out altogether.

- here's the press release

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